Review by Xenon

"It was great, if only it had ended sooner!!"

Up at six, eat breakfast, feed the chickens, collect the eggs, feed the cows, feed the sheep, milk the cows, shear the sheep, water the crops, harvest the crops, woo the woman, socialize, get a drink at the bar, go to bed, rinse, repeat. Yes, I know it all sound familiar, it's…life? What!? No, this is Harvest Moon, my friends, well, Harvest Moon 64, to be precise, and, it's about as addictive as crack. At least that's what they tell me. I mean, I've never done crack, but…

Gameplay

The premise is simple. You're some guy. You just got a farm from your dead grandpa. Make money. Be successful. Sound simple? It's not. You start out by naming your character and his dog. For simplicity's sake, I'll refer to him as Jack (the main character's default name that you won't find mentioned anywhere in game). Jack must make the farm successful. But how do you do that? Well, there are numerous things you can do. Create a successful crop growing business, raise animals, add on to your house, make friends, get married. There's no set path you have to take. Rather, you wake up each day and can do anything you want for that day. Now, this isn't some GTAIII game, no running around and killing pedestrians just for fun (or at all, for that matter). There are some limitations to what you can do, but within those boundaries, you're free to do as you please.

The game can sorta be divided into two sections, Financial Life and Social Life. On the financial side, you're supposed to manage your farm and make money. You can do this by growing crops that can be bought in town, raising animals, and just going out into the countryside and collecting things. Harvest Moon 64 is balanced out so that higher cost equals higher reward. Collecting items in the countryside doesn't cost anything but time, but the items that you get aren't really worth much. Animals have a high initial cost and require quite a bit of upkeep, but they also produce quite a bit of cash flow when they've matured. Similarly, vegetables that cost more for the seeds sell for more, but take longer to grow. Also, the commitment level is balanced out too. If you don't go collect things that day, you just won't get them, by not watering the vegetables you'll have to wait another day before you can harvest them, but not feeding the animals for several days will cause them to die and you'll have to buy new animals to replace them. This daily upkeep is where the length of the game comes from. You can't become a millionaire overnight, you have to work at it day after day and you'll slowly accumulate your wealth. Once you have all that money, you can use it to purchase home extensions (assuming you've chopped enough wood), Buy cake (and eat it too), drink at the local bar, or buy gifts for townsfolk or one of your prospective honeys (we'll get to that later).

Which brings me to the social side of Harvest Moon 64. By talking to the different townsfolk and giving them gifts, you can improve their opinion of you. What purpose does this serve, you ask? In most cases, very little except for being one of the goals of the game. That is, to have as many friends as you can have. However, every once in a while a friend will drop by and help you or give you something as well. Also, giving gifts has a special effect on five particular young ladies.

Ah, yes, courtship, another aspect of the farm life. One of the goals of Harvest Moon 64 is to get married and have a child. To do this, you must court one of the five young single ladies in the town by giving them gifts and through actions during special events. When she’s happy enough, you can give her a blue feather to propose to her (no diamonds here!). Well, how do you know when she’s happy enough!? Fortunately, unlike real women, these tell you how they feel by way of a heart meter that appears when you talk to them. This aspect is well balanced to the point that it will take some time to get her to fall in love with you. Having a child is done in a more, family friendly approach. You merely keep her happy (through the same methods as courtship) and soon she’ll be pregnant. How oddly accurate.o_0

Well, that’s all the gameplay, and it IS addictive. While time IS sped up, days will still take about 10-20 minutes depending on how much you’re inside. So, don’t be surprised if you look up at the clock once and it’s 4:00, and the next time you look up it’s 9:00. It happens, trust me. Helping the addiction is that it doesn’t end. The official game ends after the spring of the 3rd year, but after that you can continue to play.

There’s only one real flaw with the gameplay, the monotony. While at first you’ll be struggling to get everything done in a day. And you’ll be working to earn enough to buy the next item, you eventually get too good. I was done with everything by the beginning of summer of the 2nd year. The game doesn’t end (officially) until the end of spring of the 3rd year. So, I spent months of time just doing the same thing over and over again. There was nothing to work to, no more goals to accomplish, except getting more money. It’s great until then, but it just died at that point for me.

One last thing you should be aware of. The game has a tendency to freeze up every once in a while. Maybe it was just my cartridge, but you should be aware that this COULD happen.

Graphics/Sound

Meh. The Graphics are ok. They have sort of a a cartoonish look about them. Personally, I think they could have been better. They could use some polishing. Some of the characters have a squarish look to them.

Music and Sound are below average. There are only a few BGMs in the game, and none of them are really that good. Sound effects are just there. Really, the music side was quite a disappointment.

Replay

There are many factors that can change, and building the farm up from nothing is fun. I’d say it has some pretty good replay value. I’ve played it twice myself. Mind you, it’s a long game, so playing it twice is a lot.

Summary
Building up your farm, making friends, and courting a lady makes Harvest Moon 64 a fun package. However, I would have liked the game better if it were a little shorter. I just ran out of stuff to do. If you aren’t very good, you’ll actually like it better, maybe. Great Game, I just needed more!


Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 03/25/04


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